Posts Tagged ‘3 Act Structure’

How I write my novels a 10 step beginners guide. Step 6: Outlining

In How to begin your novel in 10 steps, On writing on April 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm


Image attributed to Arvel Chappell III

Writing a novel can be a daunting task. I know because it has taken me 7 years to complete my first one.  However, writing is easier for me now, than when I started. I realize that there are many of you who want to write that first novel, so let me lend my acquired experience to make your journey easier.

I have 10 steps that I realized I have used to complete my book.  During the next 10 weeks I’m going to provide you with the actual and specific tools that have used.  I’m going to put them up on this blog for you to see, and I’m going to give them away to you for free!  Yes, free because I want you to be successful! I know that they will work for you  some of you are more computer literate than others, so my tools are going to help you no matter what level of proficiency you have in software or hardware.  All you need is a desire to learn, and a willingness to implement the steps.

Ok here is step six: Outline your story.

This step is key.  It’s been said that writers block is merely you not knowing where to go next in the story.  Regardless of if you agree with this not, outlining the structure of your story will go a long ways to helping you understand what you want to tell your reader.

There’s a simple way to do this and more complicated ways.

Three Act Structure

Here are a few pics that visually explain 3-act structure.  Also reference the main pic in the heading of the blog.


Figure 1

Essentially, there is a beginning, a middle and end.  With you escalating tension, or conflict for your character (the put them through hell phases I call it.) from approximately near the ‘end’ of the beginning until you hit the climax at the end.  Then you drop off quickly with the resolution of the story and fade to black. (Sorry the cinematographer in me is coming out.)

Easy, peezy, lemon squeezee huh?

Well as fine and dandy as that is.  I just didn’t do it that way.

This is what I did to outline my story.

I imagined each ‘scene’ in my head.  Every fight scene, the ending, sometimes I could connect each scene to another and sometimes I could not.  However, in the end I had some scenes in my head.  If your not clear about what I’m saying.  If you have ever played a DVD when you go to the main menu of the movie it will ask you what chapter or what scene do you want to directly skip too.  Well when I write, I see in my head all these various scenes.  EXCEPT they are not laid out in the order of which the story is to be told.

I use Microsoft excel to lay out my outline.  Here’s some screen shots

Ok in this first screen shot, what I do is write out every scene I can think of, then I move them up or down on the spread sheet.  Over time I get a get a scene by scene outline of my story  (Ive changed the font as this is a prelim outline for my next novel)

Figure 2

Figure 2

Notice I created at the bottom tabs.  There is a tab for each chapter.  So each chapter has all the scenes associated with it.

I use the comments ability in Excel to add detail if I need to.

Notice that a green box is next to one of the scenes. (its green because its been written)

You can color code all the scenes for example that deal with a particular characters story arch.  Thus keeping track of where he/she is in the novel if you have multiple characters.

On Fig 2 notice at the top that I have cells to show the chapter title.  The scene, whose point of view is being shown and what happens, and how many pages the scene covers.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Excel (if you’re a lil savvy) is a great way to lay out and outline your book

I hope this tip help!